Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or not, when in Seoul, a visit to the Gwanaksan mountain is a must. Put it on your bucket list because the Gwanaksan mountain range is undoubtedly one of the most serene and aesthetic places Seoul has to offer.
The mountain gets its name from its shape. It bears resemblance to a gat, which is a traditional Korean hat, worn by men in the Joseon era. Gwanak, in Korean, means ‘hat-shaped’. Therefore, Gwanaksan means ‘hat-shaped peak’.
Since it has a lot of historical value, it’s a perfect location for both history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re both, you’re not going to regret a visit to this mountain range.
However, what is there to do there? Quite a lot, actually.
In this article, you’ll learn the top four things to do in the Gwanaksan mountain range. From exploring its natural topography to visiting multiple Buddhist temples, there’s a lot you can do on a single-day trip.
So, let’s dive right in.
Hike Along Its World-Class Trail
First and foremost, Gwanaksan is most famous for its hiking trails. It’s popular with both local and non-local hikers, with over five million people hiking there annually. On weekends, the area gets pretty crowded with hikers from all over Seoul.
Therefore, if you can, do visit the area on a weekday. It’s much easier to navigate, and it’s certainly more peaceful.
Now, there are three main hiking trails you can take.
- Firstly, there’s the Seoul National University trail. It starts near the university and moves up the west side of the mountain.
- Secondly, you can take the Gwacheon Station hiking trail, which moves up the east side of the mountain.
- Lastly, there’s the Sadang trail, located on the north ridge of the mountain.
The first two trails are moderate in terms of their difficulty levels. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, you can walk these trails without overexerting yourself. The Sadang trail, though, is not for the faint of heart. The Sadang trail has a much rockier terrain. It requires a lot of endurance and knowledge of rock climbing. By the end, you can’t cross the final point without using ropes and chains to haul yourself over the ridge.
However, it’s worth it because you get to see views like this:
Check Out the Gwanaksan Granite
Each hiking trail eventually leads to the Gwanaksan Granite, the highest point on the Northern Summit of the mountain. Since the Southern Summit is closed to tourists, this is where you need to go.
Once you get here, you can relax and enjoy the view. At this point in the mountain, you can see both the city and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Moreover, tourists come here to admire the topography. This granite dates back to the Joseon era, making it almost 200 years old. If you’re interested in history, you’ll appreciate the antiquated features of the rock.
Also, if you go there at night, the area is perfect for stargazing. All in all, it’s a beautiful place to relax after a taxing hike.
Explore the Gwanaksan Buddhist Temples
The Gwanaksan Mountain is home to many ancient Buddhist temples. However, the most popular (and historically significant) are Wongaksa, Yeonjudae, and Gwaneumsa.
Wongaksa is, perhaps, the oldest. It was first constructed in 1467, during the Goryeo dynasty. Even though it was torn down and reconstructed multiple times since then, the temple still has some of its original architectural features.
Secondly, there’s Yeonjudae temple (pictured below), which you can see from the bottom of the mountain. From the temple, you can see the entire city of Seoul.
If you don’t want to hike all the way there, you’re in luck. This temple is also accessible through a small footpath surrounding the cliff top.
Here’s a close up of Yeonjudae’s architecture:
Lastly, there’s Gwaneumsa, the first temple you’ll encounter on your hiking trail if you take the Seoul National University route. This temple is surrounded by lush greenery and ancient Buddhist statues.
It’s certainly a sight not to miss.
Tour the Rest of the Yeonjuam Hermitage
Lastly, you can explore the rest of the Yeonjuam Hermitage area. The Yeonjuam Hermitage connects the North and South summits of the mountain.
There are many buildings around here. For example, there’s a radar station and radio facility. However, these are inaccessible to the public.
Apart from this, there are a few small-scale food places. You can buy some traditional Korean snacks from here.
Most of all, though, there are remnants of old buildings and temples. If you’re interested in archaic buildings, you’ll enjoy touring this area.
The Bottom Line
All in all, the Gwanaksan Mountain is a gorgeous tourist destination. For outdoor lovers, this is perhaps the best tourist spot. With its natural topography and abundant flora and plant life, the Gwanaksan Mountain is a place where you can get away from the harshness of city life.
If you’re considering making Gwanaksan your next leisure trip, don’t forget to explore all the things it has to offer.
If you’re looking for more to do, don’t fret. Moreover, don’t forget to visit SM Town, a heavenly place for Kpop Lovers.